Pak asks Taliban to join direct talks with Afghan

Pakistan asked them to turn a new leaf and join direct talks with the Kabul government under a peace process.

Islamabad: In its first public appeal to
Taliban and other Afghan militant groups, Pakistan on Friday asked
them to "turn a new leaf" and join direct talks with the Kabul
government under a peace process aimed at ending the decade-
old war in the neighbouring country.

The appeal was issued by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza
Gilani, who said he was doing it in response to Afghan
President Hamid Karzai`s request for assistance in the peace

"In this spirit, I would like to appeal to the Taliban
leadership as well as to all other Afghan groups, including
Hizb-e-Islami, to participate in an intra-Afghan process for
national reconciliation and peace," he said.

In a statement, Gilani said it was Pakistan`s "sincere
hope" that the Taliban, Hizb-e-Islami and other Afghan
political leaders would "respond positively to my appeal and
agree to enter into direct negotiations in the framework of an
intra-Afghan process for reconciliation and peace."

Pakistan will support an "authentic Afghan process and is
prepared to do whatever it can for its success," he said.
Gilani asked the international community to fully support
national reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan.

"We are appreciative of the important initiative taken by
President Hamid Karzai and wish the intra-Afghan process every
success," Gilani said.

Gilani`s appeal came days after Karzai again invited the
Taliban for direct talks with his government and requested
Pakistan to facilitate negotiations aimed at finding a
political solution before the US and its allies pull their
troops out of Afghanistan in 2014.

Taliban officials have begun contacts with the US in
Qatar but the militants have so far refused to talk to
Karzai`s government.

In his appeal, Gilani said the time had come to "turn a
new leaf and open a new chapter in the history of

It was also time to combine the strengths of the Afghan
people in the true spirit of Islam and in accordance with
their traditions to build peace and bring prosperity to
Afghanistan, he said.

Karzai had sought Pakistan`s help for the peace process
in his country when he telephoned Gilani on February 21.
Pakistan was "duty bound to respond positively" to
Karzai`s appeal, Gilani said.

"Pakistan has always held that there is no military
solution to the problems of Afghanistan. We have also stated
that it is important to create conditions conducive for a
grand intra-Afghan settlement, based on national
reconciliation that involves the Afghan people without any
distinction," Gilani said.

Referring to Pakistan`s "multiple bonds of affinity" with
Afghanistan, he said Islamabad wants to have the "best of
relations" with Kabul.

Stability, peace and national reconciliation in
Afghanistan are critical for regional peace and stability, he

"A sovereign and independent Afghanistan, well on the
road to a peaceful and prosperous future, is indeed critical
for Pakistan and for our region," Gilani said.

Pakistan believes that "adherence to the principles of
non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs
of Afghanistan are of critical importance," he added.

Gilani maintained that the reconciliation process in
Afghanistan "must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned."
He said: "It is imperative to promote an intra-Afghan
consensus for a durable political settlement that accords with
the aspirations of the people of Afghanistan, as a whole."

Ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan nose-dived
following the assassination of Afghan High Peace chief
Burhanuddin Rabbani, which was blamed by Afghan officials on
Pakistan-based elements.

The charge was denied by Islamabad.
In recent weeks, Pakistan has taken steps to re-engage
Afghanistan on the peace process but lingering suspicions
remain on both sides.

US and Afghan officials have accused Pakistan`s security
establishment of supporting Afghan militant groups like the
Haqqani network in a bid to influence the endgame in